When people think of the Kern County Library, they might think primarily of the Beale Memorial Library. But the smaller branches, like Holloway-Gonzales, are keeping a full schedule of events too, encouraging the surrounding community to come on in and see what's going on.

The Holloway-Gonzales Branch Library is only open two days a week but its staff is motivated to make the most of that time. It regularly has events, but two upcoming ones are sure to be of interest to young readers.

"I want to promote that there's more to the library than just checking out books," said Candace Sluder, branch supervisor. "We have all kinds of services. We want it to be fun to come to the library."

One upcoming event is this year's Storytelling Festival on Friday, when the branch will partner with Grandma Whoople Enterprises.

Grandma Whoople is also known as Katherine Jordan, a retired kindergarten teacher who makes appearances at libraries, schools and birthday parties to talk to kids about reading and encourage them not to bully.

"It's something she's been doing for a long time," Sluder said. "(The kids) interact with her."

To participate, kids ages 4 to 14 come into the Holloway-Gonzales branch and check out a book, call Grandma Whoople to give them their name and age and, finally, return to the library for the festival to tell the story in their own words.

"This is the second year we've had it here," Sluder said, adding that while she wasn't yet working at the library last year, "it had a really great turnout. It looked like everybody had a good time."

More than 100 people came last year, and Sluder is hoping for a crowd just as big this year. It comes at the end of the summer reading challenge that all county libraries have been participating in with regular events.

If any young readers in the festival read a Harry Potter book, they will be especially ready for the Holloway-Gonzales branch's next event: its celebration of the Boy Who Lived, whose birthday is on July 31. Since the branch isn't open on Harry's birthday, it will celebrate the next day, Aug. 1. 

Though the event is geared more toward young readers, adult Harry Potter fans who grew up with the books (or discovered them later) are welcome to join, no judgment from Sluder, a fan of the series herself.

"This one is just for fun," Sluder said. "I've always thought back-to-school was such a bummer. What I always remember about the end of summer is the Harry Potter books coming out."

The event will include a wand craft for visiting witches and wizards, as well as a scavenger hunt for Horcruxes (for the Muggles: those are the objects in which villainous Voldemort hides part of his soul to become immortal).

And what would a birthday party be without cake? The Petroleum Club will provide a cake for the event, but it's probably safe to say it won't have been sat on by a kind, bearded half-giant.

"Everybody loves Harry Potter," Sluder said of the age range of expected guests. "Everybody is welcome to come."

This is the first year the branch has celebrated Harry Potter's birthday, but Sluder doesn't think it will be the last. 

The branch will also host Bike Bakersfield on Aug. 1 and 3, when kids can learn bike maintenance and safety. On Aug. 3 at  2 p.m., the monthly crafty teen club will meet. Regular events throughout the month of August include family story time on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and chess club both days at 3:30 p.m.

Sluder hopes the library will remain part of local kids' lives even as they head back to school.

"For the upcoming school year, we'd like to have class visits," she said. "We always welcome classes to come in. We're also available for outreach to schools in the area."

The individual branches of the library, Sluder said, are given a fair amount of autonomy to plan events that staff think will bring people into the library, and keep them coming back. She hopes events like the Storytelling Festival and Harry Potter celebration will bring people to a library they might not have even heard of before.

"It's such a cute, peaceful branch," Sluder said. "It's such a nice place to be. I wish more people knew about it."

She encouraged families to come to the events and check out the library while they are there. 

"It's super fun and we're all going to have a really good time," she said of the events. Plus, "You might find something to read that you didn't know you wanted to read, but definitely do."

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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